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Race Result

Racer: Aaron Schwartzbard
Race: Jersey Double Century
Date: Saturday, June 22, 2002
Location: Whitehouse Station, NJ
Race Type: Bike - Double Century
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 14:46:00
Overall Place: 53
Comment: Beautiful day for a ride! 81 starters, 65 finishers

Race Report:

On Thursday night, as I was making neat little piles of gear and food that I would need for Saturday, the announcer on the radio gave the forecast for the weekend. Saturday, he said, would be sunny, with temperatures in the low to mid 80s. "A beautiful day," he continued, "to ride a bicycle." This, I took to be a good omen.

Of course, the number of "urgent" issues at work seems to be directly related to my desire to leave work early. So after leaving work, arriving at Chris' apartment, eating dinner, loading her gear into the Green Machine, driving up to New Jersey, finding the motel that had our reservations, being lectured in heavily accented, broken English by the motel manager for telling him that we would arrive Wednesday (the day the reservations were made), then not showing up until Friday (he refused to believe that either there could have been a communication gap, or that the mistake could have been his), it was 12:30AM before we could get to bed. That left us with a grand total of three hours and 45 minutes to sleep before our alarms would wake us.

The Jersey Double is a double century through western New Jersey. This is not the New Jersey that comes to mind when most people think of New Jersey. This is rural countryside, gently rolling hills, small towns, back roads, forests, pastures, rivers --- 200 miles of absolutely pleasant riding. After finishing last year, there wasn't a question in either of our minds. We would definitely do this ride again. So for the second year in a row, we started the longest Saturday of the year on our bikes as the sun was rising.

As the sun traced a giant arc across the sky, we traced a giant loop on the ground. Around mile 50, just as I was starting to realize that this would not be an "on" day for me, Chris was getting warmed up. During parts of the next 150 miles she would ride off over the horizon, then circle back to make sure I was still moving before heading off again. During other parts, she would just sit in front, and drag my sorry butt along the course.

I knew how I felt, and I knew what it feels like to ride 200 miles. A common mistake made in endurance events is to believe that it's like doing a shorter event, just more. If someone starts a double century thinking that it's going to be like riding two centuries, that person is probably going to have a Very Bad Day. You have to understand the distance, you have to have the patience to ride the first hundred miles in such a way that by the time you reach the half-way point, you're half-way done. If you reach that century mark, and you're any bit beyond half way done, you'll pay for it before the day is over.

But if you respect the distance, if you know your limits, if you can put your fatigue aside, and accept that the next aid station is almost three hours of riding away, it can be a wonderful day. To have an entire day --- an entire LONG, mid-June day --- during which there is nothing to do but ride and ride and ride some more... There is nothing else like it to calm post-modern angst. At once, the task to bike 200 miles in a day is enormous and trivial. That a challenge this large can be reduced to simply turning pedals makes one believe that other challenges are not nearly so daunting when stripped down to their essential components.

And that's it. That's really all there is to it. We just rode. I stayed within my limits, and felt good all day. Chris rode at my slow pace, leaving her feeling good enough that at the 140 mile aid station, as some people who had been chewed up and spit out by the miles were lying on the ground, or trying to figure out how to get a ride in the sag wagon back to the start, she was dancing around, excited to get moving again. ("Are you really doing this ride?" asked another cyclist who didn't seem to understand how anyone could be feeling good at that point.) Some rides are marked by traumatic events or difficult situations. This ride had none of that. It was like winning the lottery: 200 miles of perfect riding. Anyone who cannot understand why someone would tolerate the rain and the cold and the heat and the flat tires and the sore legs and everything else that comes with training should experience just 20 minutes of the kind of day I had on Saturday. It makes everything else seem like a small price to pay.

We just rode and rode and rode, spending the day doing what we love to do. Of course, every ride has a "last few miles." Before this ride, Chris reminded me of an observation I made last year near the end of a 200km ride: It doesn't matter how long the ride is, the last few miles are always going to suck. Sure enough, in the last couple miles, I started to notice that things were starting to suck. Mentally I was fine. My legs were okay. My arms were okay. I was a little tired, but I've certainly been more exhausted during rides. What made those last few miles suck was... er, how shall I put this... my bits and pieces. With about five miles to go, I realized that I was quite sore in certain areas, and that soreness made it difficult to relax. I was getting out of the saddle at every opportunity, and despite the fact that I was feeling pretty good otherwise, those last five miles seemed to take as long as the first 50.

Coming down the last road, with the last turn in sight, we could see the last bit of the sun, as it descended behind the trees. We finally pulled into the finish, and called out our numbers to be recorded, and we once again had the satisfaction of having completed a double century.

But wait, there's more!

You've just completed a double century, it's not dark yet, and you're a triathlete. What do you do? Do you waste this golden opportunity? HECK NO! You shuffle over to your car, change your shorts, change your shoes, and head out for a run! The question was this: What would it feel like to run after biking for a very long time? I'm pleased to report that it felt surprisingly not too bad. We only ran for about 30 minutes. We were both expecting it to feel much worse than it did. A good indication of how things are going is how much chatting is going on. When folks are feeling bad, they tend to avoid conversation. Chris and I were chatting through the entire run. (Most of the conversation consisted of statements like, "Gosh, I expected my quads to hurt much more," and, "Gosh, I expected my feet to hurt much more.") I think if we weren't concerned about getting back before dark, we would have gone a bit farther. Tonight, though, that was unnecessary. We accomplished what we set out to do. We returned to the car, where we could sit, relax, and toast our accomplishments with a frothy, warm serving of Endurox.